Eastern is back on the road for four matches in four days, starting with Boise State Wednesday
EWU vs. Syracuse
Friday, Sept. 7 | 2 p.m. PT
Hilton Coliseum | Ames, Iowa
EWU vs. Iowa
Saturday, Sept. 8 | 2 p.m. PT
Hilton Coliseum | Ames, Iowa
What’s Happening This Week
Still looking for its first win of the 2012 campaign, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team will head out on a busy, and important road trip this week, as it is the final one before the start of Big Sky Conference play on Sept. 13.
Eastern plays at Boise State on Wednesday (Sept. 5) at 6 p.m. PST, before continuing on to Ames, Iowa for the Iowa State Challenge Sept. 7-8. At this two-day Midwest tourney, Eastern will face No. 18 Iowa State on Friday at 10:30 a.m., followed by a matchup against Syracuse at 2 p.m. The Eagles will play Iowa in the final installment on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Still working on its offense without an experienced setter, Eastern is 0-7 heading into this week. But the Eagles, under new head coach Lisa Westlake, definitely saw improvement in their most recent tournament in Spokane.
In the first three matches after Eastern lost both its veteran setters to injury, the Eagles averaged 9.20 kills per set on a .097 attack percentage, and just 8.00 assists. But in its last three matches at the Gonzaga Invitational, EWU averaged 11.50 kills per set on .194 hitting, while fill-in setter Ashley Wright posted nearly 30 more assists over the same number of sets played. She averaged 9.20 assists at the GU tourney, while also contributing 10 kills and four blocks.
In addition to the offensive progress, EWU averaged two more digs per set in last weekend’s matches than it had in the first couple outings.
As a former member of the Big Sky Conference, Eastern is quite familiar with its first opponent on the week - Boise State. After 53 meetings, the Broncos hold a slight edge in the all-time series at 28-25. But Eastern has won the last six-consecutive meetings, including a 3-2 thriller last year at Reese Court.
At the Iowa State Challenge, Eastern will face three teams for just the second time in history, although all three meetings were in the last decade, and all three were wins for the red and white. EWU swept Iowa State back in 2002 at the Georgia Tourney in Athens, Ga. Eastern beat Iowa on the road, 3-1, in 2004 and then topped Syracuse, 3-0, in 2006 in Wichita, Kan.
Scouting the Opposition
Boise State - Boise State owns a 2-4 record in the 2012 campaign, with two of those losses coming against fellow Big Sky member schools Portland State and Sac State. The Broncos did record a 3-0 win against Gonzaga, which is a team that swept Eastern just three days ago at GU’s home tourney. The Broncos are led by sophomore-transfer Alyssa Gammel, who averages 3.95 kills per set with a .250 hitting percentage as an outside hitter. Right side Liz Harden and middle blocker Brittany Reardon may also pose a threat, as both are returning starters from 2011, and have averaged more than two kills per set in BSU’s six matches thus far in the season. The Broncos did lose to EWU during the 2011 season, but ended up with a winning record on the year at 16-15, and advanced to the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Iowa State - Ranked 18th in the latest AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll, Iowa State will without a doubt be a tough opponent for the Eags. The Cyclones are 2-3 on the season, but all three of their losses were against teams ranked in the top 20 nationally. Their two wins came against Cincinnati - a 3-0 sweep in the season-opener - and No. 19 Illinois, which ISU outlasted, 3-2, on the road. The Cyclones have advanced to the NCAA Tournament for six-consecutive years, including an Elite 8 berth in 2011. ISU returns eight letterwinners from that squad, including three All-Americans in setter Alison Landweher, libero Kristen Hahn and middle blocker Jamie Straube.
Syracuse - Syracuse comes in with a 3-3 record on the season, with wins against Illinois-Chicago, Bryant and Colgate. Its three losses have all been 3-0 sweeps. The Orange are led by a pair of sophomore outside hitters in Andrea Fisher and Nicolette Serratore, who have both averaged more than three kills per set in SU’s first six matches. Syracuse is coached by Leonid Yelin, who is in his first year with the Orange, but has over 20 years of head coaching experience. Prior to SU, Yelin led Louisville to 14 NCAA Tournaments, and four NCAA Regional Semifinal appearances. He has a career record of 480-148 for a winning percentage of .764, which ranks as one of the top 10 active coaches nationally.
Iowa - The Hawkeyes will be the only team heading into the Iowa State Challenge with a winning record. Iowa is 5-2 in the 2012 campaign, which includes a 3-1 win against South Dakota State - a team Eastern narrowly lost to last weekend at the Gonzaga Invite. Iowa, who competes in the challenging Big 10 Conference, is coming off an 11-22 season (1-19 in conference), but the 2012 Hawkeyes are an experienced bunch, as they return 10 letterwinners, including four starters from a season ago. Iowa is led by sophomore outside hitter Alex Lovell and junior right side Rachael Bedell, both of whom are averaging more than 3.20 kills and 2.00 digs per set.